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TO WILLIAM TUDOR. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 10.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO WILLIAM TUDOR.
Quincy, 14 July, 1818.
Mr. Otis, to show the spirit of the acts of trade, those I have already quoted, as well as of those I shall hereafter quote, and as the best commentaries upon them, produced a number of authors upon trade, and read passages from them, which I shall recite, without pretending to remember the order in which he read them.
1. Sir Josiah Child, “A new Discourse of Trade.” Let me recommend this old book to the perusal of my inquisitive fellow-citizens. A discerning mind will find useful observations on the interest of money, the price of labor, &c., &c., &c. I would quote them all, if I had time. But I will select one. In page 15, of his preface, he says, “I understand not the world so little as not to know, that he that will faithfully serve his country, must be content to pass through good report and evil report.” I cannot agree to that word, content. I would substitute instead of it, the words, “as patient as he can.” Sir Josiah adds, “neither regard I which I meet with.” This is too cavalierly spoken. It is not sound philosophy. Sir Joshua proceeds: “Truth I am sure at last will vindicate itself, and be found by my countrymen.” Amen! So be it! I wish I could believe it.
But it is high time for me to return from this ramble to Mr. Otis’s quotations from Sir Josiah Child, whose chapter 4, page 105, is “Concerning the Act of Navigation.” Probably this knight was one of the most active and able inflamers of the national pride in their navy and their commerce, and one of the principal promoters of that enthusiasm for the act of navigation, which has prevailed to this day. For this work was written about the year 1677, near the period when the court of Charles II. began to urge and insist on the strict execution of the act of navigation. Such pride in that statute did not become Charles, his court, or his nation of royalists and loyalists at that time. For shall I blush, or shall I boast, when I remember, that this act was not the invention of a Briton, but of an American. George Downing, a native of New England, educated at Harvard College, whose name, office, and title appear in their catalogue, went to England in the time of Lord Clarendon’s civil wars, and became such a favorite of Cromwell and the ruling powers, that he was sent ambassador to Holland. He was not only not received, but ill treated, which he resented on his return to England, by proposing an act of navigation, which was adopted, and has ruined Holland, and would have ruined America, if she had not resisted.
To borrow the language of the great Dr. Johnson, this “dog” Downing must have had a head and brains, or, in other words, genius and address; but, if we may believe history, he was a scoundrel. To ingratiate himself with Charles II., he probably not only pleaded his merit in inventing the navigation act, but he betrayed to the block some of his old republican and revolutionary friends.
George Downing! Far from boasting of thee as my countryman, or of thy statute as an American invention, if it were lawful to wish for any thing past, that has not happened, I should wish that thou hadst been hanged, drawn, and quartered, instead of Hugh Peters and Sir Henry Vane. But no! This is too cruel for my nature! I rather wish, that thou hadst been obliged to fly with thy project, and repent among the rocks and caves of the mountains in New England.
But where is Downing’s statute? British policy has suppressed all the laws of England, from 1648 to 1660. The statute book contains not one line. Such are records, and such is history!
The nation, it seems, was not unanimous in its approbation of this statute. The great knight himself informs us, page 105, “that some wise and honest gentlemen and merchants doubted whether the inconveniences it has brought with it be not greater than the conveniences.” This chapter was, therefore, written to answer all objections, and to vindicate and justify Downing’s statute.
Mr. Otis cast an eye over this chapter, and adverted to such observations in it, as tended to show the spirit of the writer, and of the statute; which might be summed up in this comprehensive Machiavelian principle, that earth, air, and seas, all colonies and all nations were to be made subservient to the growth, grandeur, and power of the British navy.
And thus, truly, it happened. The two great knights, Sir George Downing and Sir Josiah Child, must be acknowledged to have been great politicians!
Mr. Otis proceeded to chapter 10 of this work, page 166, “Concerning Plantations.” And he paused at the 6th proposition, in page 167, “That all colonies and plantations do endamage their mother kingdoms, whereof the trades of such plantations are not confined by severe laws, and good executions of those laws, to the mother kingdom.”
Mr. Otis then proceeded to seize the key to the whole riddle, in page 168, proposition eleventh, “that New England is the most prejudicial plantation to the kingdom of England.” Sir George Downing, no doubt, said the same to Charles II.
Otis proceeded to page 170, near the bottom.
“We must consider what kind of people they were and are that have and do transport themselves to our foreign plantations.” New England, as every one knows, was originally inhabited, and hath since been successively replenished by a sort of people called Puritans, who could not conform to the ecclesiastical laws of England; but being wearied with church censures and persecutions, were forced to quit their fathers’ land, to find out new habitations, as many of them did in Germany and Holland, as well as at New England, and had there not been a New England found for some of them, Germany and Holland, probably, had received the rest; but Old England, to be sure, had lost them all.
“Virginia and Barbadoes were first peopled by a sort of loose, vagrant people, vicious, and destitute of means to live at home (being either unfit for labor, or such as could find none to employ themselves about, or had so misbehaved themselves by whoring, thieving, or other debauchery, that none would set them on work), which merchants and masters of ships, by their agents (or spirits, as they were called), gathered up about the streets of London, and other places, clothed and transported, to be employed upon plantations, and these, I say, were such as, had there been no English foreign plantation in the world, could probably never have lived at home, to do service for their country, but must have come to be hanged, or starved, or died untimely of some of those miserable diseases that proceed from want and vice; or else have sold themselves for soldiers, to be knocked on the head, or starved, in the quarrels of our neighbors, as many thousands of brave Englishmen were in the low countries, as also in the wars of Germany, France, and Sweden, &c., or else, if they could, by begging or otherwise, arrive to the stock of 2s. 6d. to waft them over to Holland, become servants to the Dutch, who refuse none.
“But the principal growth and increase of the aforesaid plantations of Virginia and Barbadoes happened in, or immediately after, our late civil wars, when the worsted party, by the fate of war, being deprived of their estates, and having, some of them, never been bred to labor, and others made unfit for it by the lazy habit of a soldier’s life, there wanting means to maintain them all abroad with his Majesty, many of them betook themselves to the aforesaid plantations, and great numbers of Scotch soldiers of his Majesty’s army, after Worcester fight, were by the then prevailing powers voluntarily sent thither.
“Another great swarm or accession of new inhabitants to the aforesaid plantations, as also to New England, Jamaica, and all other his Majesty’s plantations in the West Indies, ensued upon his Majesty’s restoration, when the former prevailing party being by a divine hand of Providence brought under, the army disbanded, many officers displaced, and all the new purchasers of public titles dispossessed of their pretended lands, estates, &c., many became impoverished and destitute of employment, and, therefore, such as could find no way of living at home, and some who feared the reestablishment of the ecclesiastical laws, under which they could not live, were forced to transport themselves, or sell themselves for a few years to be transported by others, to the foreign English plantations. The constant supply that the said plantations have since had, hath been such vagrant, loose people as I have before mentioned, picked up especially about the streets of London and Westminster, and male-factors condemned for crimes, for which, by the law, they deserved to die; and some of those people called quakers, banished for meeting on pretence of religious worship.
“Now, if from the premises it be duly considered what kind of persons those have been, by whom our plantations have at all times been replenished, I suppose it will appear, that such they have been, and under such circumstances, that if his Majesty had had no foreign plantations, to which they might have resorted, England, however, must have lost them.”
Any man, who will consider with attention these passages from Sir Josiah Child, may conjecture what Mr. Otis’s observations upon them were. As I cannot pretend to remember them verbatim and with precision, I can only say that they struck me very forcibly. They were short, rapid; he had not time to be long; but Tacitus himself could not express more in fewer words. My only fear is, that I cannot do him justice.
In the first place, there is a great deal of true history in this passage, which manifestly proves, that the emigrants to America, in general, were not only as good as the people in general, whom they left in England, but much better, more courageous, more enterprising, more temperate, more discreet, and more industrious, frugal, and conscientious. I mean the royalists as well as the republicans.
In the second place, there is a great deal of uncandid, ungenerous misrepresentation, and scurrilous exaggeration in this passage of the great knight, which proves him to have been a fit tool of Charles II., and a suitable companion, associate, and friend of the great knight, Sir George Downing, the second scholar in Harvard College catalogue.
But I will leave you, Mr. Tudor, to make your own observations and reflections upon these pages of Sir Josiah Child.
Mr. Otis read them with great reluctance; but he felt it his duty to read them, in order to show the spirit of the author, and the spirit of Sir George Downing’s navigation act.
But, my friend, I am weary. I have not done with Mr. Otis or Sir Josiah Child. I must postpone to another letter.